Telehealth has been around for over 20 years. But only recently has the technology been considered mainstream for many different types of doctor’s visits. COVID-19 and the associated regulatory changes (many of which have been made permanent) have played a big role.
According to the volume analysis of telehealth claims by McKinsey & Company, published in the July 9th article “Telehealth: A quarter-trillion-dollar post-COVID-19 reality?”, overall telehealth utilization has seen extensive growth during COVID, growing to a peak in April 2020 by 78 times of the pre-COVID baseline. Utilization has since pulled back and stabilized at 38 times baseline. Still, 38 times is a very impressive growth rate.
COVID and the establishment of permanent reimbursement codes for telehealth changed the marketplace. The top visit type for telehealth before COVID was often “virtual urgent care” supported by a dedicated online care group. Costs were based on patient self-pay.
Top Telehealth Care Settings Based on Claims Data
Based on 2021 claims data, behavior health telehealth has the highest utilization of all care settings and has not pulled back significantly since COVID. Today, approximately 63% of behaviour health services continue to be delivered virtually. Top telehealth settings based on claims data include:
- Behavior Health
- Clinics, Pharmacy, Medication Management
- Routine Primary Care
- Urgent Care
- Non-Routine Primary Care
- Gynecology/Women’s Health
- Other Specialties
Telehealth vs. In-Office Visits
Telehealth utilization varies greatly across physicians and practices. As per the 2021 Telehealth Survey Report by AMA, telehealth represents less than 20% of their average weekly visits for many practices. At the same time, telehealth represents more than 80% of visits for many others, forming a reverse bell curve. Other practices are a mix of in-person and telehealth visits, where telehealth represents anywhere between 21%-80% of visits – a wide range.
Clinical Use Cases For Telehealth
The overarching driver for telehealth has been increased patient access and convenience. More recently, secondary drivers have included the ability to support flexible work hours and locations for scarce staff looking for flexible work environments and to scale the business offering to a broader geography.
Not all clinical care use cases support telehealth. Use cases where a provider needs to physically make contact with a patient through sample collection, examination, diagnostics, and treatments are not normally supported through mainstream telehealth. But even in these cases, these specialists often use telehealth for patient consultation, pre-visit information, and pre-op and post-op visits. Other use cases across clinical care include:
- Screening, assessments, diagnosis
- Transition of care management
- Chronic care management
- Continuous monitoring
- Intake or triage
Telehealth as the Backbone for New Online Business Models in Healthcare
Telehealth plays a crucial role in supporting online business models, including digital consumer channels, digital services provision, and online care network connectivity. As in many other industries, many organizations are launching new online patient health services. The best online consumer services provide seamless, easy-to-use, end-to-end solutions for both patients and providers. New Telehealth supported digital service offerings in the marketplace include many services consumers are willing to pay a convenience premium for, such as:
- Lab sample collection (wherever you are)
- Skincare Specialist
- Weight Management
- Brain Health & Cognitive Assessments
- Health and Wellness Coach
- Naturopathic Medicine
- Oncology Navigator
- Sleep Therapist
Key telehealth features required to support any use case in healthcare often include:
- HIPAA-compliant video/audio infrastructure and processes
- HD video and audio calls
- Unlimited multi-party calls
- Scheduled or unscheduled
- Waiting room
- Push Notification
- Integrated service workflow, payment collection, forms, etc.
When considering what services lend themselves to telehealth solutions, a key question is whether this task requires the patient to be physically present in a traditional office visit? Fewer and fewer patients are willing to wait in crowded waiting rooms to be seen by a doctor. Consider innovative ways in which old bricks and mortar patient engagement activities can be moved online, either partially or completely, to form a new online business.
Healthfully provides a secure, HIPAA-compliant telehealth solution, so your patients can see primary care doctors, pediatricians, specialists, or urgent care staff from the comfort of their home or office. Learn how the Healthfully digital app makes virtual hospital and doctor visits easy. Get started today.